’The Safe Place’
To decribe April 2018 as a shit time in my life would be an understatement. I had no appetite and weight was falling off me. Some days I’d eaten so little that I got really bad stomach pains. I felt exhausted. The pain in my heart was like nothing I’d felt before and I longed for it to go away.
I was attending marriage counselling with my ex, as well as attending my psychiatry appointments. If I’m honest, I knew. I knew it wasn’t just ego boosting text messages like he insisted. I let him lie because I was so afraid of the truth. The truth was that I was being betrayed by the person I had given everything to. I was afraid of what accepting that truth meant.
I was facing a mortgage, bills and the care of 3 daughters alone. I already had fears and anxieties that I had to face. I couldn’t cope with anything more. So, I allowed myself to pretend it was all ok and that eventually he was going to come home. The marriage counselling, date nights as suggested by said counsellor. I did it all.
I took time off from work because I needed space. I didn't work at all in April. Every day when I woke up alone in bed, it was like being punched in the stomach. Every day felt the same, empty.
When everything felt too much, I went to the safe place. Where is this mystical haven of security, I hear you ask? Upstairs on the right, opposite the bathroom, covered by a 10.5 tog duvet.
I needed to shut everything out. I needed a place where I could hide. Hide from the truth, the reality. I spent hours in that safe place in the early days.
I found great comfort in reading. I turned 40 in the April and my wonderful parents, who were my absolute rock, bought me a kindle. I started to read self help books and think I managed to pretty much make my way through every self help book on Amazon!
I'd go to the safe place, climb under the duvet and pull it up over my head. My girls were wonderful. Even though they were only 14, 13 and 11, they were so understanding and supportive. They called it the safe place too and they were regular visitors. I was open with them about my mental health.
I’m embarrassed to admit that the driving force for overcoming my OCD, was that I thought he would come home if I changed. Life could go back to how I knew it. Certain. Life had always felt certain and now nothing was certain, nothing was promised.
I started the exposure and response prevention straight after my second appointment with Allan. We had agreed to start tackling my compulsion to check my bank accounts.
My ex lost his job when I was on maternity leave with our youngest daughter. He faced redundancy twice and would often fear losing his job because he wasn’t always well liked at work. The fear of being without enough money to get by sparked my checking our financial status.
I would check my bank on numerous occasions throughout the day. I’d get this thought that would pop into my mind and I’d have to check my banking app to make sure everything was ok. I was now at the point where I would buy something in Asda and be checking my bank balance as I was walking out of the store.
Allan set me a target of leaving 10 minutes between making a purchase and checking the balance of my account. I can’t put into words how hard that was. The fear that I wouldn’t have enough money left in my account brought about stomach churning anxiety.
Although preventing myself from performing the check was so difficult, I pushed myself to leave longer gaps than the 10 minute target. Each time I saw Allan I fed back on my progress and another target would be set. Allan always told me if it felt too much, it was ok to take a step back. I always pushed myself to beat the target.
Whenever I saw my ex I would tell him how well I was doing. I was like a puppy waiting for a pat on the head for good behaviour.
As I headed into May 2018, things started to change. The most significant change was that the need to check the bank was fading away. The fearful, intrusive thoughts were becoming less and less.
Something else started to change too. I started to fantasise about a different life, a new life. I kept thinking about a life that he wasn’t a part of. I started to question whether the uncertain life that lay before me was really as scary as I had imagined it to be.